There is a new study says neck gaiters like Buffs is worse than not wearing a mask. I am not convinced that this study should be taken at face value, but it also makes sense to be suspicious of Buffs, bandanas, and other masks that are not designed to do the job of a mask.
(To be perfectly clear: Buff is a company that produces thin, spandex-y neck collars that have become eponymous known to many as “buffs.” Please din make a face-built face mask. That mask was not tested in the study we are talking about here.)
For more on face masks, check out the video below:
We have long known that the N95 respirator does the best job of protecting both wearing and so on. Surgical “surgical” masks – the available medical masks – are the next best thing, keeping most (but not all) of your breaths in your breathing while possibly providing protection to others.
Since masks are not always available, fabric masks are what most of us wear. Fabric masks provide protection in a similar way to discard the masks of the procedure, though it may not be effective.
That said, not all masks are equal. As we all scrambled to find fabric masks, companies started different types. Anyone who sells gaiters advertises their gaiters; companies that make masks with valves sell masks with valves. Of course, this does not mean that these are the best options.
Findings in this study
So far, there is no great way to test masks to see if they are “sufficient” to protect against coronavirus. Medical masks go through some quality control checks, but fashion masks do not have such a protocol. Neither do you sew or improperly at home.
So a team of researchers from North Carolina published a paper describing a cheap tool which can be used to test masks. The device is basically a box with a laser and a cell phone camera; stick your face mask up to the box and speak to it. The light from the laser draws from the droplets that spray out of your mouth (or not, depending on how well the mask works), and the camera records it.
The device does not diagnose if people are sick or if an infectious dose of the virus has been delivered; it is just looking for drops in the air. No coronavirus was involved in this test.
So, to test the device, the researchers spoke in the box while wearing different masks. As expected, people make very few droplets when wearing N95, with surgical masks that perform better and fabric masks that vary according to their materials and construction.
Here’s the big caveat, though: it’s a proof-of-concept to see if the box can measure droplets, and if the droplets look different from mask to mask. This is no a definite test of masks themselves. In fact, the researchers wrote in their conclusion:
Again, we would like to note that the mask tests performed here (one speaker for all masks and four speakers for selected masks) should only serve as a demonstration. Inter-subject variations should be expected, for example due to variations in physiology, mask mask, head position, speech pattern, and so on.
What should we know about the different types of masks?
First, that if something is not really a mask, we should not expect it to perform like one. Both the CDC and WHO inirerekumenda that a mask fits around your mouth and nose, preventing buffs, as well as bandanas tied in bank-style style. They too warning against wearing a mask with an exhalation valve, because that’s the only thing that makes your germy air in the world.
None of this is new. New to this study is the suggestion of a buff may be worse than nothing, because its open weaving parang to divide large drops into smaller ones. Na can be a problem. Do you see all those obscene words? That is the best way for me to accurately describe the results. It is possible that buffs may be worse than none, but the question requires further study. No one has studied whether buffs really increase the chances that someone might get sick.
I think it’s worth reconsidering your buff, if you wear one. I know a lot of runners who want to have one on their neck so they can pull it off if they pass someone. We have some data to suggest that might not be a great idea, but we are and know that a buff is not really a mask – so maybe we should not rely on them in the first place.